Speaking part 4 of the Cambridge First certificate exam is a collaborative task as candidates are asked to discuss a topic related to part 3.

Students can sometimes struggle to grasp exactly what we are aiming for in speaking part 4. They may fall short on interaction or not be ambitious enough in their language. My First Certificate class and I worked together to try and improve this part of the exam in the following activity.

Our aims were to:

  • understand what makes a good discussion.
  • script an extract of a speaking part 4 discussion.
  • use what students had previously learned (i.e. asking questions, reacting to your partner, and referring back to what has been said).
  • create a recording we could use to review the conversation after.

interactionThe students had recently completed a structured task from the coursebook which specifically looked at speaking part 4. We went on to complete the activities below.

1. The students were asked ‘What makes a good discussion?’ and ‘What do we mean by interaction?’ They talked about this together in small groups before class feedback.

2. The groups then had to decide on the three tips for speaking part 4 they would give to someone sitting the FCE exam. We decided on our three top tips as a class.

3.  We did a quick review of elements such as referring back to what your partner said, reacting and showing interest through interjections etc. I drilled intonation where necessary.

4. I gave students an example question: ‘What are the advantages of exercising with friends?’ They had time in their pairs to ‘script’ what they were going to say and then they practised together.

5. Students recorded themselves on their telephones and sent me the conversation by email.

In the next class, we listened to the recordings and discussed how they could be improved. The students recorded their improved version.

I used one of these recordings to create this short video.

What went well

  • Producing a script meant students had time to really think about what they need to be doing.
  • They put into practice what we had been learning.
  • They were allowed to focus on improving their language.
  • The fact that there were some changes to be made was a great learning opportunity for us all.
  • Having the recordings meant that we had something to refer back to and I was able to give more detailed feedback.

Potential issues.

  • I had concerns that planning what they were going to say would lead to an unnatural conversation, which it inevitably did. We try to avoid students sounding overly scripted. I dealt with this by highlighting the fact that this is something we want to avoid. Of course, the activity was followed up with further unscripted practice to give a more realistic impression of what it would be like in the exam.
  • Students might not be happy to share their recordings with the class. This is easily solved by asking if it is ok.

Here’s a FCE speaking part 4 video worksheet to use with it. The worksheet was one of the assignments on Katherine Bilsborough’s ELT Material design course which you can read about here.

I put the video together using Powtoon. For my post on ways to use this resource with students click here.

Interested in other ways to encourage students to think about the FCE speaking assessment? In this post, I look at using student recording for self-evaluation of speaking part 2.